A person in Georgia charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol face a variety of serious consequences even in a typical situation. However, when you are a licensed nurse in the state of Georgia, you face unique consequences that can negatively affect your nurse's license, and therefore your livelihood.
If you are a licensed nurse and have been charged with a DUI in the state of Georgia, an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney can defend your case and protect your legal rights.
DUI Charge: Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Georgia Nurses
Georgia nurses are required to report to the Board of Nursing when certain types of things occur. Failure to report can be incredibly problematic and could result in the loss of your nurse's license.
When a licensed nurse is convicted of certain types of crimes, he or she is required to report it to the Georgia Board of Nursing. These convictions include:
- any crime that involves moral turpitude
- any felony conviction
- any federal crime that relates to a controlled substance
- any state law that relates to a controlled substance
- any crime involving dangerous drugs
The Board's mandated reporting requirement applies whether the convictions occurred in the State of Georgia, another state, a U.S. territory, or even another country. Any "conviction" is required to be reported, whether that conviction resulted from:
- a jury verdict
- a "guilty" plea
- a nolo contendere ("no contest" plea)
Chemical Dependency Issues
If a nurse fails to use reasonable skill and safety as the result of the use of narcotics, drugs, alcohol, or other chemicals, a mandatory reporting requirement applies to:
- registered professional nurses
- advanced practice registered nurses
- licensed practical nurses
- licensed undergraduate nurses
Any past failures due to the same reason must also be reported at that time.
Convicted of DUI: Actions the Board of Nursing May Take
Once the Board of Nursing receives a report of either a conviction or that a nurse has a chemical dependency problem, the Board can take certain actions. It may:
- refuse to grant a nurse's license
- revoke a current nurse's license
- discipline the holder of the nurse's license
To determine what the "appropriate" response is to the report, the Board of Nursing is allowed to require a licensee or applicant to submit to a medical or mental examination by a Board-approved health care professional. The results from these examinations may be used as evidence in any hearings that occur before the Board.
Any person who applies for or receives a license to practice nursing from the Board is deemed to have consented to submit to a physical or mental exam. If asked, the person is required to submit to one or both of the examinations. The law also considers this consent to release the results of the examination to the Board of Nursing for any hearings determining the status of a person's nursing license. Unlike many other types of medical examinations, licensed nurses are not allowed to claim a privileged communication with a healthcare professional in this type of case.
The Board has the power to review all records relating to the physical or mental condition of the examinee when considering what action to take on a nursing license. The records are admissible at any hearing in front of the Board to determine a person's rights to his or her nursing license.
Refusal of a Medical Examination
If the Board of Nursing requires a person to submit to either a physical or mental exam, the Board expects that person to quickly comply with the order. A failure to cooperate with the examination requirement could cause the Board to enter a final order concerning your license without the benefit of the exam. This will not likely be considered in your favor unless there were certain circumstances that were outside of your control that caused a delay.
Factors Considered by the Nursing Board
When the Board of Nursing considers whether to deny an application or revoke a license, the Board considers different factors, including:
- any criminal conviction, including no-contest pleas
- withholding of an adjudication of guilt
- any first offender treatment without an adjudication of guilt
- any conduct which demonstrates an inability to practice as a nurse with the skill and safety required due to the use of
- chemicals, or
- other material
Possible Consequences of a DUI
The Board of Nursing has several options it can take after considering a person's mandated reporting of a DUI, including:
- denying an application for a nurse's license
- revoking a current nurse's license
- issue a public reprimand of the nurse
- issue a private reprimand of the nurse
- suspend the nurse's license for a definite period (typically with conditions necessary to restore the license)
- suspend the nurse's license indefinitely (typically with conditions necessary to restore the license)
- impose limitations on the nurse's license
- delay a determination of penalty due to a pending order for the nurse to submit to care, treatment, or counseling
- a $500 fine
- imposition of costs the Board incurred for the investigation and any disciplinary proceedings
Denial or Revocation: What Do I Do?
If a Georgia nurse's license is revoked or an application is denied as a result of a mandatory reporting, the licensee or applicant may reapply at reasonable intervals for a nursing license. A denial or revocation does not have to be permanent.
Defending Your DUI Case
One way to avoid a requirement to report a conviction is to avoid a conviction in the first place. If you face a charge of DUI in Georgia, an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer can present defenses to help prevent a DUI conviction, including:
- challenging field sobriety tests
- challenging blood or urine tests
- filing a suppression motion to exclude evidence
- present reasonable doubt to the jury
Consult an Experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney
While a DUI conviction is serious enough for everyone, a Georgia nurse faces unique challenges as the result of a DUI conviction. To defend your case and protect your legal rights, an Atlanta DUI attorney can present a defense to the court and the jury. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.